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tv   Meet the Press  MSNBC  September 9, 2013 1:00am-2:01am PDT

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this sunday morning, the crisis in syria. a huge test for president obama. can he successfully make the case for a military strike? >> it's tough because people do look to the united states. and the question for the american people is, is that a responsibility they're willing to bear? >> the president's hard sell. will congress go align? here with me live to help answer that question, the white house chief of staff, denis mcdonough. right now much of congress is undecided, and polls show strong public opposition. we'll go coast to coast with three influential members of congress. plus, president obama's primetime address to the nation tuesday night. our roundtable weighs in on his challenge ahead. and there's just 48 hours before new york city's primary. >> stay out of the public eye.
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>> that's not for you to judge, my friend. >> embattled mayoral candidate anthony wiener goes one on one with "today's" savannah guthrie in an exclusive interview. i'm david gregory. all that ahead on "meet the press" for sunday, september 8th. >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest-running television program, this is "meet the press." >> and good sunday morning. the obama administration has released disturbing pictures that apparently show the aftermath of a chemical attack in syria. this is video, the administration showed members of congress this week in order to make the case for military strikes. it appears to show victims of the august 21st attack by bashar al assad that killed more than 1,400 people. joining me now, the president's chief of staff, denis mcdonough. welcome back. >> thanks for having me, david. >> you have made the statements that these pictures, among other evidence, makes the case to congress and the american people, and yet congress doesn't appear to be with you when it comes to military strikes.
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why not? >> look, i hope that every member of congress, before he or she decides how they'll cast their vote, will look at those pictures. let me tell you what i've been up to for the last couple weeks, david, talking to members of congress, dozens of them, including at least two who will be on your panel. nobody is rebutting the intelligence. nobody doubts the intelligence. that means that everybody believes that bashar al assad used chemical weapons against his own people to the tune that you just said, of killing nearly 1,500 on august 21st. so the question for congress this week is what are the consequences for his having done so? how congress chooses to answer that question will be listened to very clearly in damascus, but not just in damascus. also in tehran and lebanese and hezbollah. >> i want to apologize for interrupting. you're saying, look, if we don't do this, iran, which you believe is developing a nuclear weapon, looks at that and says, aha! the natures could be trifled with. >> i think it's very difficult
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for us to know exactly what is happening in tehran. but what we do know is to communicate with them, we have to be very clear, very forthright. this is an opportunity to be both with the iranians to make sure that they understand that they do not have greater freedom of action. they do not have greater operating space to pursue a nuclear weapon which would destabilize that entire region, threaten our friends and allies and ultimately threaten us. >> is this more about iran than it is syria? >> this is about a series of very important things. in the first instance, almost 100 years old now, a prohibition against the use of chemical weapons. why does that matter? well, it matters for the reason that you started the show with, but it also matters for another reason. our troops have not been subjected to chemical weapon as tacks since world war i. imagine, it was the weapon of the day in world war i, but because of our work and the work of our partners, it has now been prohibited except in many few instances, and we have to make sure that for the sake of our
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guys, our men and women on the front lines, that we reinforce this prohibition. >> you know, i'm hearing you make this case. i know the president's speaking tuesday night, and i'm sure he will say similar things. and yet you look at the polling. this past week, nearly 60% of the american public is opposed to military strikes in syria. it's almost a collective sense in the country saying why is the united states going to start another war? >> right. and it's entirely understandable. given everything that our country has gone through, the great sacrifices that our families, that our troops and their families have made, the investments that we've made. that's why the president has been very clear. and let me just underscore that now. here's what this is not. no boots on the ground. not an extended air campaign. not a situation like iraq and afghanistan. not a situation even like libya. this is a targeted, limited, consequential action to reinforce this prohibition against these weapons that unless we reinforce this
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prohibition will proliferate and threaten our friends and our allies. >> but what's the point? if you're outlining what it's not, what does it actually accomplish that forces assad to never use these weapons again? >> here's what it does. it degrades his capacity to use them again. it also makes him think twice before he goes to these dastardly weapons again. and why does that matter? if he's going to use these things more aggressively, david, he's going to take them out of secure storage, push them onto the front lines. you know what that means? there's a greater risk of them being proliferated. >> is there any question that he ordered attack personally? >> no question in my mind. and i just want to bring back to this question, david, not a single member of congress has rebutted the intelligence as i've consulted with them. and the question then becomes what are the consequences for him for having done this, and what does the world read from how we react to it? >> but congress, nor the public, is convinced that what you say you'll do will actually accomplish what you say you must accomplish. >> well, that's why it's so
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important, and that's why the president went to congress and said, you know what? we want to get off this permanent war footing. that's what the president has been doing. he ended the war in iraq. and he said to congress, i want you to be my full partner in the prosecution of this effort. you, congress, as full partners will ensure greater discipline in how we carry this out. you, congress, will ensure that when we say it's a targeted mission, it does not creep. and that's exactly why we want congress involved. >> are you committed to changing momentum on the syrian battlefield? >> we have a policy that includes all the indications and all the weapons of our strength, diplomatic, economic and kinetic that would undercore and help us carry out our policy goal at the end of the day. >> does the president want the rebels to win or not? >> the president wants there to be a resolution, a political resolution, among syrians. that's how these things end. so we need to empower the syrians, the moderate opposition, we're supporting them. >> do you want to change -- with
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military action. direct question, do you want to change the momentum on the battlefield? >> there is no doubt that this military action will degrade his capability, and it will send a very clear signal. we've seen now indications that for these several weeks since we've been having this debate in this country, the syrians are on high alert. when they're on high alert worrying about what's going to happen to them, it erodes their capability to attack the opposition and carry out these heinous attacks. that's in our interests. >> do you want to change momentum on the battlefield? i think that's a critical question in terms of where the mission goes. >> there is no doubt that momentum on the battlefield will be changed by a targeted, limited effort, but ultimately the resolution of this, david, there's not a military resolution to this. mrs. a political resolution. and our effort to target this effectively will only help that political diplomatic resolution. >> the president seems to me has a bit of a predicament here. he doesn't want to get into hypotheticals in case congress says no. but here's the reality. both the president and secretary of state kerry have made
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references to the holocaust. they have said american credibility is at stake. the president in europe said europeans know what happens, referring to the holocaust, when europe basically turns away and doesn't act in the face of this kind of carnage. my question is, how does the president not act even if congress says no? >> look, the president's been very clear that going to congress was a step designed to make congress a full partner. when they're a full partner, we're stronger. so this is not an emplty exercise. the question is if you want there to be consequences for the assad regime with all the intended and associatesed complications for our national security if we don't, then you have to vote yes on this resolution, and that's a message that we'll be working throughout this week, after having really set the table. >> my question is if they say no, has not the president made it impossible not to act given what he says is the consequences the stakes are, and the fact
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he's already made it clear he doesn't feel he needs congressional authority to act? >> david, i'm not going to start -- i'm not going to be the first person who answers the if questions on your show. i'm not going to get into hypothetical. it's a very high-stakes question for congress this week. with the intelligence showing what it shows, what are the consequences for the assad regime? they have an opportunity to answer that question. >> i think a lot of the criticism of the president has been trying to understand why there's been some zigzag to the approach, some changes in the approach, and indeed, what the ultimate leadership position is of the president. he said something that raised some eyebrows on wednesday with regard to the red line. here's what he said. >> my credibility is not on the line. the international community's credibility is on the line. and america and congress's credibility is on the line. >> why is the president's credibility not on the line? he's the one who issued the red line. he's really out in front of the international community, isn't he?
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>> no, david. if you look at the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, it goes back more than 100 years. in fact, it was then ratified in the chemical weapons convention by the republican-led senate working with president clinton in 1997 where they passed it in a bipartisan way. this is a bipartisan thing, an international standard. >> is the united states just an equal partner on the international stage? or are we the world's leader? >> there's no question that we're the world's leader. >> it appeared he was trying to distance himself from his own credibility. he is the one who said, if he used a bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized that would change my calculus. that would change my equation. hasn't the president of the united states put his credibility on the line saying you do this, if you cross this line, you're in trouble? >> declarer to policy is something we do all over the world. and we set very clear -- communicate very clear signals to our adversaries so that they understand exactly what's on the docket. i was sitting in the national security council staff at that time.
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we saw indications, public and private, of what he was preparing to do. and so we undertook a very aggressive effort, publicly and privately, directly with him and his cohorts, but also with our other allies to make sure that this did not happen. because the implications of it are very robust, very negative for our national security interests. and what this intelligence shows, what we've debated and what we've briefed and nobody has debated or rebutted is that he did it. >> before you go, i want to allow you to respond to some criticism that has come from the right, a consistent critic, columnist charles krauthammer in "the washington post" really summing up some of the criticism against the president. i'll give you a chance to respond. i'll put it on the screen. assad has to go, says obama, and then lifts not a finger for two years. obama lays down a red line and then ignores it. shamed finally by massive poison gas attack, he sends kerry to make an impassioned case for retaliation and the very next day obama undermines everything by declaring an indefinite time-out to seek congressional
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approval. the stunning zigzag following months of hesitation, ambivalence, contradiction and studied delay left our regional allies shocked and our enemies gleeful. >> a couple things. the president has led the international community and bringing to bear sanctions, travel bans, and greater isolation for them. but what we've learned is that is insufficient to stop them from using these dastardly weapons. and so it's a very precise question. he, having used these weapons, should be held to account. that question is before congress this week. and it's an opportunity for all of us. we're in partnership. we're stronger and i think charles krauthammer as well as anybody else would recognize that congress working together with the president makes us stronger and sends a very clear signal to damascus, tehran and beyond. >> victory in syria means that assad can never use chemical weapons again. >> victory in this targeted effort means that he is degraded from being able to do it again, and he is deterred from doing it
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again. ultimately resolution of the wider conflict, that's an issue for syrians to resolve. we will continue to support the moderate opposition in ways that the president has already laid out to the country. so we will resolve -- help them resolve it, but that's theirs to resolve. we have a very narrow issue here. that we need to address. which is the use of these dastardly weapons which have not been used against our guys in nearly 100 years. we want to make sure that continues. >> the debate goes on. i appreciate your time very much. >> thanks, david. we want it turn to the fight on capitol hill where the president is trying to convince even skeptical members of his own party. joining me the senator from new mexico, a democrat on the foreign relations committee. he voted against giving the president authority for strikes this week in a key preliminary vote. senator, welcome. you just heard denis mcdonough preview what the president will say to you and the rest of the country tuesday. have you changed your mind? >> no, david, i haven't changed my mind.
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and i think the most important thing here is we -- we all know, first of all, that what he did, bashar al assad, was a heinous act. it's despicable. my heart is broken when i see that video and you see women and children dying as a result of chemical weapons. so let's be clear on that. and i think it's pretty clear that he did this. but the big question for the congress right now is what is the most effective way to move forward? and i think the american people don't want to be embroiled in a middle eastern civil war. this is an act of war that we're going to take. we haven't exhausted all of our political, economic and diplomatic alternatives. and that's where i want to be focusing. we ought to be rallying the world. we ought to be rallying the world because all the world agrees, david, all the world agrees you shouldn't use
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chemical weapons. and make sure that russia knows that they're complicit in this. this is what we need to be doing. >> senator -- >> i'm very disappointed that the administration has given up -- they have given up on the united nations and on rallying the world. >> senator, we have a three-second delay, so it's difficult, a apologize for jumping in, but i want to pin you down on something. the world has not been rallied. russia is opposed to this. but you just heard the chief of staff of the president say that the intelligence here is rock solid. the president has issued a red line. are you not concerned about inaction on the part of the united states if this, in fact, occurred and the president said he'd have to take action if that were to happen? >> i don't think we have inaction, number one. i think we're doing more than any other country in the region. i think we have moved effectively there to provide defenses to our allies who are
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rallying the international community in terms of humanitarian aid. but the key question right now is how are we going to be effective in the future? how are we going to save lives? how are we going to move to this political solution? and i don't think a couple of tomahawk missiles delivered in on top of the syrian military are going to do that. i think what we're talking about is moving much too rapidly down the war path and not trying to find a political solution through the international community. and russia, we haven't even made them vote. you know, everybody says, well, russia's going to veto it. they keep saying they haven't seen the intelligence. we ought to show them the intelligence. we ought to take the intelligence to the world and like has been done in the past, in the united nations and the security council, a presentation has to exactly what has happened here and why russia is complicit
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in all of this. and i think we have a real chance to move us forward in a very, very positive vein. >> all right, senator tom udall this morning with quick reaction to the administration's case. i appreciate your time very much. coming up later here, our political roundtable on what may be the biggest challenge yet for the presidency of president obama. david axelrod, newt gingrich, jane harman and chuck todd with us. plus, "today's" savannah guthrie in an exclusive interview with anthony wiener. why is he still in the race? when we come back, the debate in congress over syria. three house members on the tough debat[ male announcer ] syria. this one goes out to all the allergy muddlers.
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we are back now to the debate in congress.
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joining me from orange, california, near los angeles, democrat irk congresswoman loretta sanchez, republican congressman from austin, texas, and house of the homeland security committee, mike mccaul and from new york, peter king. we're going coast to coast this morning. to all of you quickly, if the vote were held today, congresswoman sanchez, i'll start with you, are you a yes, no or maybe? we'll get into the whys in just a second. you first. >> i'm a leaning no. it's about national security. >> okay. and congressman mccaul, yes? no? maybe? >> as it stands today, i cannot support the president's plan. i think it's irresponsible. >> all right. and congressman king. >> i would vote yes in spite of the president's conduct. >> all right. so let me come back, then, to congresswoman sanchez. you heard denis mcdonough. he said two things. limited air strikes, the victory, in his mind, in this campaign, is degrading assad's ability ever to use chemical weapons again. and it is not a long-term
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military involvement. why are you not persuaded that that's worth doing and achievable? >> well, first of all, it is about national security. and i haven't heard any of our interests -- i haven't heard that assad wants to use weapons against us. i haven't heard that he wants to use weapons against our allies, that he's moving them to terrorist organizations. so i'm asking, where is the national security issue? and make no mistake about it. the minute that one of those cruise missiles lands in there, we are in the syrian war. it's a civil war. and we're taking sides with the rebels, many of whom are still associated with al qaeda or other groups that mean to underminus. so for the president to say this is just, you know, a very quick thing and we're out of there, that's how long wars start. >> congressman king, answer that concern. >> first of all, i share some of those concerns. i do believe, though, that there is a real axis between syria and iran, that for syria to be allowed to use chemical weapons, to continue to have chemical
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weapons, at the same time we're issuing a red line to iran, with nuclear weapons, that makes iran and syria an axis for dominance in the middle east and endangers jordan and israel and that necessarily endangers our national security. i just wish the president had laid this out better. i wish he'd quit backing away from his own red line and i wish he was more of a commander in chief than a community organizer. >> well, what is it -- why do you say that? i mean, that's like a campaign line. what does that mean, more commander in chief than community organizer? >> what i mean by that is, he was commander in chief. for one year he said this red line was there. and then the red line is crossed. and he sends kerry and hagel out, all set to basically have an attack. we're told that congress is not needed. at the 11th hour he brings in congress. and then he says it's not his red line. here's a person who's vacillating. i can't imagine truman or kennedy or reagan or eisenhower ever putting the nation in a position like this on military policy. >> let me ask congressman mccaul. is american credibility a real
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reason to go to war, even in a limited fashion? >> well, we always are concerned about our credibility. the problem is, i think lobbying a few tomahawk missiles will not restore our credibility overseas. it's kind of a face-saving measure for the president after he drew the red line. that's what i'm very concerned about is that once we, as my colleague from california mentioned, once we're in, we're in. and once we hit, this is an act of war. little wars start big wars. and we have to remember that. and i think we have to be very cautious. and the other thing i'm very concerned, david, you haven't mentioned the program yet, it's who are we supporting in this war? we are supporting a rebel faction, the rebel cause, that has now been infiltrated and hijacked by many al qaeda factions. so the idea on the eve of 9/11, as we move into that, to have this vote ironically, that we're going to support a plan that could potentially put these chemical weapons in the hands of al qaeda that could be turned
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against americans. those images i saw of the children in damascus are horrific. assad is a brutal dictator, but i don't want to see those images broadcasted and shown in the united states with american kids. >> congresswoman sanchez, a year ago it was the attack in libya on our consul there, murdering our ambassador. and this is also supposed to be a limited operation. but when the country disintegrated, the united states' interests, on our own people, were targeted and killed. >> well, as i said, the fact of the matter is that you can't just lob in a few missiles and say that that's the end. and it's the unknown consequence. if it's the irrational people, who will respond? how will it be? i think the risk is very, very high. and believe me, i understand why the president has come to the congress because the legal framework -- i mean, there are only two ways in which under the u.n. security -- under the u.n. charter which we are a part to, which is our law.
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that is our law. it says the only time you go and attack is one, if you have the u.n. security resolution on your side, which quite -- we haven't even gone to ask for that, as senator udall suggested, and secondly, that we have been directly attacked or we feel we are in imminent danger from that. and i believe that in both of those cases that doesn't exist. and by the way, great britain is also a permanent member of that security council, and they have said no force to be used. so you can't just blame russia on this. we have to really say let's go to the u.n. council and let's get this resolution out of them. >> you know, congressman king, as i talk to people and i have over the weekend, what i get back is, gosh, this is just a mess. and as i'm talking to the three of you, i am hearing yes, you support the resolution, but you don't really trust the president to execute it. the other side seems to be, what's the point of what we're going to do? and then there's a third side. it is good heavens, let's just
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not get involved to the point where we get deeply involved where there's no way out. how does the president get to the other side of this and get this resolution passed, given all of these concerns? >> it's going to be very difficult to get the resolution passed. i think doing nothing is worse because then we are going to allow it to spiral out of control. as far as what mike mccaul said, and i understand his concern about the rebel forces, but i'm on the intelligence committee. we've met extensively on this. i believe ways can be found to isolate the al qaeda elements in there. and someone who represents some of the 9/11 victims, i'm concerned about the spiraling out of control. as far as what loretta sanchez about the u.n., bill clinton attacked without u.n. approval. it's basically a useless organization on these matters. and again, whether it's harry truman or whether it's eisenhower or whether it's reagan, whether it's clinton, when forceful action has to be taken by the commander in chief, it can be taken. president obama should have taken it. he failed. when the moment came, he flinched p. >> quick response from
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congressman mccaul before i left you go. >> look, it's been a failed policy in the middle east. there's instability in egypt, libya, syria is the next shoe to drop. i don't want to see syria the vacuum being filled by al qaeda forces. very, very concerned about that. any action -- this is such a limited action as well. it's not going to achieve anything. and i think at the end of the day, it could inflame the region. it could get hezbollah and iran geared up against israel, which i'm very concerned about at the end of the day. i think the solution, quite frankly, david, is to get the international community involved, as the senator said, to rally behind the use of chemical weapons. there are no good sides, no good outcomes in syria, but the international community can secure and destroy these chemical weapons. that should be our chief objective here. >> all right. we'll leave it there. loretta sanchez, mike mccaul, peter king, congressmen and woman, thank you all very much. we'll be watching this debate closely. coming up here, the president facing perhaps the biggest challenge. you're hearing of it his term in office as he makes the case for
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the strikes in syria. plus, what the debate means for those eyeing the white house in 2016. our political roundtable will be here to break it all down. david axelrod, newt gingrich, jane harman and chuck todd. back here in just a moment. now it's your turn to bring something to the table. here's today's question. something to the table. here's today's question. weigh in now
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if you haven't yet downloaded d-box so you can join the conversation online, we've posted some exclusive photos, behind the scenes and poll questions, too, to get your take on the issues. there's a link on our website, "meet the press," nbc.com. up here next, our political roundtable on the president's handling of the syrian crisis. roundtable on the president's han[ female announcer ] did you know the average person smiles
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we've got a little news this morning. i want to check in with our chief foreign affairs correspondent, andrea mitchell, in paris traveling with secretary of state john kerry. ab dr andrea, he's rallying the international community. what have you learned? >> reporter: kerry said he is picking up momentum. he said today that the saudis have actually endorsed air strikes, but they have not said so publicly. so far he has no public endorsements of usair strikes except from the french. and the french said today and yesterday that they now want a delay. they want a delay to go back to the united nations because they are also, of course, pressured by public opinion here in france. so the secretary said just now that he is going to take that back to the president, consider a delay, going back to the u.n. where you know there is that russian veto. it does seem to be going one step forward, two steps back. but all of the arab leaders here today did condemn assad's use of chemical weapons, universally, they said that it was assad and
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they condemned it as crossing an international red line. by the way, kerry picked up a lot of friends here in france by doing an entire speech about assad, condemning assad in french to the french people. and in flawless french, at that. david? >> andrea mitchell, thank you very much in paris traveling with the secretary of state. our roundtable is here. jane harman, chuck todd, newt gingrich, david axelrod, welcome to all of you. the question for all of you, the president's got it all cut out for him now, tuesday night. he's got to try to change the trajectory of this, chuck todd, and convince the public and congress to act. how does he do it? >> it was amazing that you have a northeastern moderate republican, peter king, a southern conservative republican just now in mccaul, a liberal to moderate centrist democrat from orange county, california, and all in some ways beating up the president, even the yes vote for him wasn't exactly a show of confidence on that. it looks -- what's interesting here is the white house is doing this full-court press even as they realize the house might be
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close to a lost cause. they're going to try this pr effort. you see the videos are coming out. then we have what denis is doing today, what the president's doing tomorrow with a bunch of interviews. then the nation -- i thought the most effective thing he did on friday at the press conference that i was at in russia is when he made it about -- he made an interesting, i thought, patriotic pitch which is, you know what? we're america. we're stuck. i'm sorry we have to be the world's policemen. i don't like it. it was sort of this reluctant like we have no other choice. no one else will act. no one else is going to punish him. and it's terrible that we're in this position, but we're -- that's -- you know, we're stuck doing it. i actually thought it was effective. the first message i heard out of the administration that was potentially effective. >> but newt, he's saying, denis mcdonough is saying, it's going to be limited. don't worry. very, very limited. very targeted. and by the way, if we don't act, iran, the real enemy, is watching. that's what mcdonough said this morning. >> i thought denis was very effective making a bad case. i think that's their problem.
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if the strategy is inexplicable to a normal american, we're going to sort of punch you, but we're not going to punch you too hard. and we really would like you to leave, but we don't want you to leave enough to get rid of you. and we hope there's a political solution although we haven't got a clue what it is. i mean, that's very hard to build momentum for. and you have to be communicator in chief before you're commander in chief. and tuesday night's speech, i think, really matters because he has to show a coherence and a discipline and a directness that average americans can identify with. >> i mean, the issue here -- i'm sorry, jane, go ahead. >> well, i get it. i served in the house for nine terms. i won 17 elections including primaries. i was primaried, as they say. it's a new word in our lexicon, three times after my vote for the iraq intervention where i said i believed the intelligence, and the intelligence turned out to be wrong and i was wrong, but the notion of going to war or launching a limited strike at least to me to protect our
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values and to project american power in a way that deters really bad consequences in iran and north korea and so forth is, by my light, the right thing to do. and i think what's going on here, my view, is all these folks in both parties, especially in the house, are worried about being primaried. the base in each party is against this. i'm sympathetic to that. the economy hasn't rebounded in most parts of the country. they're against it. so these folks think that their re-election, my view, matters more than perhaps taking a principled stance. >> i think that's too hard. it's perfectly rational. >> they don't want to vote for it. and that's why, again, the president's pitch matters so much. >> america, david axelrod, doesn't want to go to war. and i don't think america necessarily believed that denis mcdonough says we're not going to war, that they can take that to the bank. >> well, of course, the president here is kind of whipsawed between those who want more aggressive action and those who are afraid this will lead to war. and the irony is he was the
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president who got elected because he recognized early that the case on iraq was faulty, that it was a bad thing for us to do. but on this, i think that it's very, very clear. chemical weapons are in a different category. you know, we have 400 kids basically gassed as they slept, tortured, and then killed, their ability to breathe taken from them. and this is what these weapons do. this is why we proscribed them for 100 years. and the notion that we're going to let that go without an answer is an open invitation to use them again not just by assad but other players in that region and around the world. it would be disastrous. >> but i remember how democrats went after the bush administration for raising the specter of weapons of mass destruction being used against our own troops to make a case for war that never happened because there were no wmd there. denis mcdonough just said that here. he said we don't want our own troops being targeted by these awful weapons. >> but david, but these weapons are there. this is a completely different
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case. the weapons were used. we have film, we have all kinds of intelligence that suggests who used them. it's a much different case. >> would syria attack the united states with weapons? >> there's no doubt they're fighting side by side with hezbollah. they could certainly use them against israel. they could be proliferated from there. and it gives a signal to everyone else -- every bad actor on the planet, the united states, the world community is in a fetal position, and you can do what you want. that would be a terrible signal. >> i think peggy noonan actually captured a good part of this in her column this week. this country has been engaged in the middle east seriously since october of 1979. we are tired of being a region where everybody wants to kill each other. it's very un-american. and as this whole -- because we're a country that wants a solution. tell me what the end game is. well, the middle east, the end game may just not be not killed. israel has survived. >> here's the problem. to me -- and i'm as cynical as
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anybody when it comes to political motivation. and i think about half of the republican opposition here is the political opposition. but i think a good 50% of it is not. i think about 75% of the opposition of the democratic party is rational and principled and may be about 25% of it is politics. i don't think it's as political as you think on this. i think there is -- but what does this look like on day four? the president, denis mcdonough, what does it look like day four? >> go ahead. >> that's what the president hasn't answered. >> first of all, the word "un-american" makes me cringe. we're all patriotic americans, whatever our point of view is on this. we want america's interests to be advanced. the people who have looked at this carefully think day two comes out okay. israel is prepared for day two. and we're prepared for day two. and day three and four won't be beautiful either, but this is a choice among bad options. this is the least bad option. even a guy like bill kristol writing in "the new york times." >> civilians are going to be
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killed. >> they're going to be killed anyway. >> part of the legacy of iraq was that the bush administration failed to anticipate what could go wrong. so if denis mcdonough says limited strike, degraded ability to use chemical weapons, what happens if they retal rate against israel? we get drawn in. what happens if he uses weapons again? do we have to strike again? what happens if the battlefield momentum is changed dramatically because of our military action and it begins to disintegrate? we had this point of view going into libya. what happened a year later? the ambassador was killed because it was chaotic. >> what is the result of inaction and the israelis themselves have sent a signal that they felt -- that they feel we have to act because if we don't, it will encourage the use of these weapons. >> let me, first of all, my reference on america was behavior of people in the middle east. i think it's very hard for us to understand people who three, four and five generations kill each other in order to set up a blood feud -- >> deep religious beliefs, by the way. this is crusade kind of stuff.
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this is not the history of america. >> part of what we have happening in the country -- and i think in a democracy this is not a bad thing -- people are allowed to have views. and partly what's happening is a country talking to itself and the american people saying, "a," i don't understand why it's our problem. "b," i doubt very much that we can fix it. and "c," the guys who are against assad strike me as about as sick as assad is. so you really don't have a good guy/bad guy environment here. >> you know, the problem is it's not our problem until it's our problem. so if you don't accept the moral argument, how about the practical argument that we live in a very small world now, and if these weapons proliferate, that ultimately it washes up on our shores. we've seen that in a tragic way already. we need to contain this. and i think that is a fundamental point the president has to make. >> and he's going to make it. i mean, he knows that this is clinch time. when the tough decision came about taking down osama, he did it. and i think he's unflinching here. and i actually think the move toward congress -- the process is very messy -- but putting this in congress's box is a very
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smart thing to do. there's an international lesson on what a mature democracy looks like going on right now. and whatever the result is, it won't be rifle fire on our streets. >> given what david said, the moral case, the practical case and the fact that the president has made all the holocaust references, i want to ask you all the question i asked denis mcdonough. how does he not act even if congress says no? >> and that's why i think this whole limited -- >> i'm not making a case for war in saying that. i'm just saying it's a predicament. >> i think his case would look better, the moral argument would be the practical argument that you just made would be easier to understand if they weren't saying, but it's going to be a very limited strike, and it's not going to tip the balance of power too much, although i notice -- i did notice that denis was saying no, no, no, it may tip the balance. i think they're trying to change that tune. and i think that goes to the then the third part of this equati equation, right? if you're a member of congress, you're going well, then what does it do? and there are going to be tv pictures. we are going to kill civilians.
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we're going to kill some innocent victims with these bombs. >> the president has to make the case this will have an impact. we've seen examples in the past when they happen where there were limited strikes that did make a difference. but in answer to your question, david, i think denis answered it in just the right way, which is don't ask -- answer an if question. i think it's very hard for him to act if congress votes it down. very hard to act. >> i think the decisive point was that friday night walk with denis where the president said, i'm going to go to congress. i mean, prior to that, literally he could have bombed, done a national speech and said, here's why i did it. i'm commander in chief. >> ask for forgiveness, not for permission. >> almost no negative fallout. now he's in a situation where if he can't win this vote, i don't see how he politically stays -- >> do you think it was right for him to take us there? >> i do think it was right for him to take us there, but now he's told the american people you get to define what i will or won't do. >> quick thought.
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>> that's brilliant. the american people should buy into america's actions around the world. and this has serious consequences. i think serious consequences if we don't act. we should have been doing this for 12 years. we haven't had a post-9/11 conversation. we've had commanders in chief taking unilateral action. and this is much better. >> all right. the debate continues. we'll take a break here and come back. more with our roundtable. also "today's" savannah guthrie with an exclusive interview with anthony wiener. will his wife, huma, be by his the secret is out. hydration is in. [ female announcer ] only aveeno daily moisturizing lotion has an active naturals oat formula that creates a moisture reserve so skin can replenish itself. aveeno® naturally beautiful results.
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even with all of the grim news in syria, there is a welcome distraction tonight. that's the premiere of "sunday night football" on nbc. i want to go around the table on who we like for the super bowl. i think the redskins have a shot. i say they go deep into the playoffs at least, but watch out for denver, too. >> my favorite team is a super bowl contender so how do i not say the packers? i'm saying cincinnati bengals. >> jane harman. >> if there were a los angeles
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team, i'd be there. but on behalf of my two sons, dan and brian, hail to the redskins. >> all right. >> green bay versus denver and green bay wins. >> he set up the matchup. he gave the complete -- >> i'm going to be a homer, too. i'm excited about the bears and i think they'll be facing denver in the super bowl. >> looking good around the roundtable. we'll be back in just a moment with
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and we're back. the race for mayor of new york. the country's biggest city would make national headlines in any other campaign cycle, after all, being the mayor of new york is one of the most high-profile positions in america. giuliani, koch and bloomberg all familiar names to most. anthony wiener is trying to join that list. but he's facing an uphill battle. he resigned from congress two years ago amid a highly public and personal revelation that involved texting lewd pictures of himself to other women other than his wife,r than his wife, huma abedin, who by the way is a close confidante of hillary clinton. he lied not once but twice about
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his inappropriate behavior which contributed to his slide in the polls. he's now in fourth place at 7%. but despite all of that, weiner has vowed to stay in the race to the very end. we've got 48 hours to go until the primary election. "today's" savannah guthrie went one on one in this exclusive interview with the embattled candidate. >> reporter: do you still think you have a realistic chance of winning? >> well, look. the answer is yes. from the moment go, i was waging this campaign on a bet. and the bet was basically that i know that people have embarrassing things they will hear about me and did know about me in my background, but i also knew that i had the best ideas and i'd be the best mayor for the city. so before we do postmortems on what happens if i lose, let's have the campaign and let's see if i win. and then we'll move forward from there, and after i serve two terms, perhaps we can have that conversation. >> reporter: are you really saying that with a straight face? i mean, it just feels like -- >> look. in the highest of the highs, the
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lowest of the lows in this campaign when there are 15 cameras from malaysian tv shouting questions at me, i'm still talking issues every day. i just came from an event talking about issues of the middle class. >> reporter: let me ask you that because you're a realist. you have been in politics a long time. didn't you know going in that you were something of a flawed messenger, that because of your past, that would detract from the very issues you profess to care about? >> yeah. this is not about me. it's not about you. no. it's about the fact that in this city, millions of people every single day are struggling to make it. >> reporter: aren't there other ways to contribute other than putting yourself out there, putting your family through it, in some ways embarrassing the city of new york with all of these things? >> well, let's leave that to the voters. >> reporter: before this campaign, you participated in a couple of profiles that portrayed you as a rehabilitated and changed person. you left out the key fact that some of this behavior continued after your resignation from congress.
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was that not, at the least, mislooeding? >> first of all, anyone who read that story in "the new york times," that long, painful story where i specifically said these things were not far in my background, if you're saying should i have said, well, it happened on a particular day? maybe you're right. maybe i should have. >> reporter: that it happened after you resigned because you were portraying yourself as someone who learned a tough lesson but deserved a second chance. >> right. >> reporter: and ultimately you left out a key perception that it exists. >> that's fair enough. if i did say i did these things, i did say i them over an extended period of time, i said that i did them with more than one person, and i said that more things would come out. i said those things honestly and was pilloried. i regretted them, was deeply sorry for them, that my wife and i had gotten past them. >> reporter: you sat for a piece in "people," and your wife, huma, was part of it. and in that piece she talked about how you had changed. at that time she didn't even know that your behavior was continuing, that it was still going on.
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does that not show a capacity to look someone in the eye and lie, not just your wife, but a reporter, but the public? >> no, things were -- things were a lot better during that "people" magazine profile. they were a lot better. >> reporter: but she didn't know that it was continuing. >> no, no. but things were -- look, i was working through things. >> reporter: do you ever fear of a relapse, for lack of a better word, that it might come back? >> no. i think that i've -- you know, with help of my wife, with help of professionals, i've got it behind me. it's something in my private life. people have things in private life that they overcome all the time. >> reporter: do you think huma will come out on the campaign trail between now and election day? will she be by your side on election night? >> i don't know. you know, i'm walking a fine line. you know, you have, as a reporter, you have an appetite for the huma side of this story. i want to talk about issues important to the middle class and the issues that citizens care about. >> reporter: fair enough, but huma was a key part of your rollout. she spoke on your behalf quite
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passionately at the moment of the second wave of scandal. the media didn't put huma into this. >> you're asking where she'll be in the future and i answered your question. >> reporter: well, i guess the question is is she out of that now? does she kind of regret being so public with your campaign because she's paid a high price for that? >> that's for sure. that's for sure and an unfair one. you know, i don't think she did anything wrong. if her crime is standing at my side and helping me get through it, that's her crime. >> reporter: knowing how tough it would be on you and your family, you'd still run? >> no one gets to go back and redo things. i'm convinced that the decision i made was the right one. i'm convinced that i'm going to be the next mayor of the city. >> a quick programming note. can you watch anthony wiener live tomorrow on "today." coming up here in just a moment, chuck todd is back with a look at the major political stories for the week ahead. it is his "s
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we're back. we want to look ahead at the big political stories for the week. our lit cal director, chuck todd, is back here with me. his "sunday first read."
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all eyes on syria. the vote in kong regs. >> there's going to be a political influence. there are some political maneuvers, number one, to watch as mitch mcconnell is up for re-election. he's got a primary fight from the right. rand paul. >> leader of the senate republicans. >> the only leader in congress that hasn't said which way he's leaning. very interesting to see if it is a political decision or one where he sits, thinks about being senate minority leader. the second group i'm watching, congressional black caucus. does the white house twist arms and say the obama president relevancy is on the line. do you want to be a lame duck starting tomorrow? does that twist some arms against a group that is really leaning against this. and then finally, the guys -- other guys up in 2014, senators and stuff like that, we see mark pryor, mary landrieu, particularly republicans in red states, a lot of them right now hanging no. >> big question, how much this devours the rest of his second term. you're watching other votes outside of congress. we talked about the new york mayors race.
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>> right. if i joke, if it's tuesday, somebody's voting somewhere. colorado, this is a state trending blue. they did a big gun-control, bunch of gun-control legislation, and the nra funded some recall elections against state legislatures. if they win those, i think that tells you that possibly the republicans have found a way back using guns in colorado. >> and whether or not the gun issue comes up in congress again in 2014. hillary clinton and jeb bush, strange bedfellows. >> if it wasn't for syria, this would be the biggest political story of the week. jeb bush is giving an award to hillary clinton. the first families of presidential politics hanging out together in giving an award. the right's not happy that jeb's doing that. hillary's doing this on the eve of benghazi. there would be a lot of stuff percolating over this, but syria is drowning that out. >> our "sunday first read," chuck todd, thank you very much. thanks to our roundtable as well for a great dis cu that is all for today. we'll be back next week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press."
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good monday morning. to you. right now on "first look," full-court press. president obama will be unleashing a media blitz to promote his syria agenda with half the undecided house to convince. a diary from robert f. kennedy jr., does it reveal his sexploits over the past many years. football fans rejoice as the first full sunday of the season brings plenty of highs and lows. plus, even a pesky win wind couldn't blow serena from her fifth open. mickey hart taps into his brain. what to do with your smartphone. intense diplomacy amid the international callor
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